Jeanne Paulsen as Josie, John Procaccino as Jim, Seán G. Griffin as Hogan,
Galen Joseph Osier as Harder, and David Gehrman as Mike. The director is
Kurt Beattie, sets are by Shelley Henze Schermer, costumes by Deb Trout,
lighting by Geoff Korf, and sound by Dominic Cody Kramers, September 11-28,
following are hastily written thoughts about an exceptional performance of,
perhaps, O’Neill’s finest play. Anyone who can get to Seattle in the next
two weeks is urged to attend.
There is a moment in Act 3 when everything in the play changes, and
everything between Jim Tyrone and Josie Hogan changes. To this point the
play has been broad and delightful comedy with only the merest hint of
depths underlying the jokes, the wit and the overall good humor. In Act 3,
Josie – and the audience – can begin to know Jim and his story. The joking,
kidding and scheming gradually stop, and nothing is left but the growing
knowledge in Josie that she has not known Jim at all, that he is
completely different from what she has allowed herself to believe, that
she too is different from the way she has come to see herself and her bluff,
and ends in Act 4 knowing who Jim is, and knowing better who she herself is.
The change begins with Josie admitting to Jim what he and her father already
knows, that she is a virgin, and develops as she increasing knows not only
that she is loveable but, more importantly, that she has the capacity to
love as well as to desire. She changes from rebellious daughter to woman and
at the end of the play has clearly emerged as the central character in a
play that is not only about Jim’s tragic story, but something else for which
we do not have a clear name. The play belongs in
that small group of works like Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonnus, Shakespeare’s
Antony and Cleopatra, Winter’s Tale and Cymbelline which exist in the world
of tragedy but which move into some unnamed land beyond, a land barely
The ACT performance is given with one intermission, between acts 2 and 3.
The small parts of brother Mike and the millionaire Harder are played
competently, as is father Hogan (although I once felt he lacked the empathic
knowledge of his daughter that O’Neill’s character should have.) But the
play belongs to Josie and Jim Tyrone, and I have never seen the parts played
better, nor with actors who fit so well together. John Procaccino is quieter
and less flamboyant than Jason Robards in the part, but he reaches just as
deeply into Jim’s misery and he knows Josie as well as she can be known.
While the play is going on, it seems that quiet thoughtfulness is the best
way to play the part of Jim. Jeanne Paulsen is his equal, equally good in
the comic scenes with her father, and in presenting Josie’s gradually
growing knowledge of who Jim is, why he cannot love, why and how he is
dead before his time has come. The two actors are wonderfully attuned to
each other. Mr. Procaccino seems to go as deeply into Jim as any actor I
have seen, and Josie understands what Jim finds in himself. At the end, as
should be, Josie emerges as one for who we can feel hope, even as we grieve
for Jim’s hopelessness. And so the play leaves us a bit breathless, but not
hopeless; we know the lives of these characters are worth living and they
show us something about our own lives that is valuable knowledge. This is a
performance not to be missed.
© Copyright 2003
Stephen A. Black.
Stephen Black is Professor Emeritus at Simon
Fraser University, British Columbia and author of Eugene O’Neill: Beyond
Mourning and Tragedy.